Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Hired by the Mouse

Disney was a different animal in the 1970s. I got hired by the company in the middle of the decade, and it went something like this:

On a warm October afternoon in 1976 I was sitting in a third-floor animation office of Walt Disney Productions. A gray-haired man with wire-frame glasses sat behind a neat desk, smiling tightly at me. He looked like a Topeka pharmacist.

His name was Don Duckwall, administrative director for Disney Feature Animation, and I sat across from him thinking: Don Duckwall? Seriously? Does Disney have an executive someplace named Mick Mousewall? ...

Etcetera, etcetera.

Walt Disney Productions was an interesting place in the middle seventies, more of a sleepy, family enterprise than a main-line Hollywood Studio. Back around that time I had a big-time screenwriter tell me:

Disney's. I always get a kind of laid-back, Midwestern vibe when I go on that lot. People are actually nice to on another. The pace is slower. People aren't as paranoid. It's nice. I kind of like it. ..."

Of course, Disney had its own special versions of paranoia in those days, but they were several clicks less tense and crazy than what went on at other movie lots.

Back then, when Neanderthals roamed the earth, the Mouse House was mainly a backwater movie studio in Burbank that made a half-dozen live-action films with B talent every year that were geared to the kiddie trade, also cranking out an animated feature every two or three years, just for giggles.

And it owned some highly profitable amusement parks.

But what I'm doing up above is slowly writing about what went on in the Disney animation department thirty-five and more years ago, since I happened to be there. What the creative process was like. Who the personalities were. (At least, the ones I rubbed shoulders with.)

Little by little, I'll be writing about the ten years I was an employee of Diz Co. I'm doing it at a different blog called Turnip Blood Press that's less focused on the union and animation business. (I don't post there as much as here, but hey. There are only so many hours in the day and I've got this pesky day job.)

I plan to link to various chapters here as I put them up there. Just so you know.

Hope you're 2013 is starting out joyously.

5 comments:

Rafi animates said...

Great, looking forward to reading those posts. Keep up the great work on this blog too.

Happy New Year!

Floyd Norman said...

Great story, Steve. Even more so since I already know most of the major players. The seventies were a strange time at Disney and my returning was probably a mistake. However, Don Duckwall and "Fast Eddie" Hanson took care of that. I was sacked after a few months.

Looking forward to more stories from you.

mark kennedy said...

Really interesting stories, thanks for posting about your experiences. Can't wait to read more.

Steve Hulett said...

Plan to do a book's worth. When I have the time.

(I don't have the time, but what the hell. ...)

Christopher Sobieniak said...

"Back then, when Neanderthals roamed the earth, the Mouse House was mainly a backwater movie studio in Burbank that made a half-dozen live-action films with B talent every year that were geared to the kiddie trade, also cranking out an animated feature every two or three years, just for giggles."

Oh those were the days!

"And it owned some highly profitable amusement parks."

Some things never change!

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